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Social Experiment, Part 1: Places I’ve Lived In Florida

People often say where you grew up, or where you live, has a lot to do with who you become. Some people are fortunate to have spent their entire life in one, singular place. I was not one of those. I have lived in 35+ different homes in my 25 years, which are spread out between two different states, Florida and New Jersey. I was born and raised in Florida, and spent around 17 years of my life there. The other eight years were spent in New Jersey.

Not to say I’ve been unlucky – I’ve experienced many, many different walks of life. I’ve come into contact with many different people, saw things most people would never believe, and I love I’ve been able to experience this. But what do the places I’ve lived have to say about me?

Let’s take a look first, today, at the places I’ve lived in Florida. There are five different towns/cities I’ve resided in, each of which has it’s own story. I’m going to give you a very basic breakdown of census facts for each town/city first. Then I’m going to give you my personal take on having lived there – a short, 100-200 word paragraph on how I would have defined the city personally. Let’s take a look, shall we?

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#1 – Dade City (Pasco County)
Total Population: 6,444
Ethnicity Breakdown: 67.3% White, 20.4% Black, 20.6% Hispanic, 2.5% Mixed
Persons Living Below Poverty Level: 33.1%
Median Income: $28,510
Mean Travel Time To Work: 25 minutes
Average Persons Per Household: 2.49

Dade City holds a very dear spot in my heart, seeing as it is for all intents and purposes, my hometown. I spent the earliest years of my childhood here, and my memories of the place are fond, to say the very least. Things that stand out in my mind are the churches, banks, antique shops, farms, roadside stands (selling boiled peanuts, BBQ, and fruit), and old buildings – particularly the old courthouse. I’d say it’s a very tight-knit, small town community. Everybody knows everybody else, and our downtown gatherings are something no one really wants to miss. Downtown gatherings include things like the antique car shows and the Kumquat Festival – we crown a Kumquat Queen and everything. I remember lots of farm land, a historically unchanged downtown, and a very big emphasis on local businesses. No one could forget Olga’s Bakery, Tin Can Pam’s, or the numerous locally-owned antique shops that line downtown.

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#2- Zephyrhills (Pasco County)
Total Population: 14,382
Ethnicity Breakdown: 88.7% White, 4.9% Black, 1.4% Asian, 10.4% Hispanic, 2% Mixed
Persons Living Below Poverty Level: 17.8%
Median Income: $35,819
Mean Travel Time To Work: 24.7 minutes
Average Persons Per Household: 2.49

For the longest time, I felt that Zephyrhills was actually a city. This was when I first moved here, after living in Dade City. As you can see from the statistics, the population in Zephyrhills is over double that of my hometown. I learned through my future travels, however, that this does not make it a city. My memories fondly include going to Zephyrhills Park, both as a child myself and with my own little own. I remember the movie theater, the bowling alley, the Wal Mart, the 7-11, and a lot of beautifully tall trees. True to it’s southern heritage, I remember walking barefoot everywhere – yes, I even went into the stores barefoot, since I absolutely loathe shoes. No one looked strangely at me for this, either. Not so true to it’s southern heritage, allowing an influx of northern individuals, were the numerous retirement homes and trailer parks – both the classy and not so classy ones.

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#3 – Webster (Sumter County)
Total Population: 805
Ethnicity Breakdown: 56.15% White, 34.53% Black, 3.35% Mixed, 15.16% Hispanic
Persons Living Below Poverty Level: 28.7%
Median Income: $18,000
Mean Travel Time To Work: Unavailable
Average Persons Per Household: 3.19

I remember Webster as being a ridiculously small town, and the total population number tells me my memories serve me correctly. Actually, I mostly remember Webster as being a town lined up beside a railroad track that, otherwise, was nothing but backwoods… and these were VERY REAL backwoods, let me tell you. Roads heading straight into the middle of nowhere – no turn offs for some, too many turn offs for others. The people there always seemed a little off to me, and I know the entire area is locally well known for hauntings and other spooky stuff, with a few well known satanists making their home between the woods in Webster and Ridge Manor Estates – another very backwoods area. Although I lived here for about a year, and visited numerous times after that, this was my only real impression of the area.

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#4 – Brooksville (Hernando County)
Total Population: 7,778
Ethnicity Breakdown: 76.9% White, 18% Black, 6.6% Hispanic, 2.1% Mixed
Persons Living Below Poverty: 24.5%
Median Income: $31,970
Mean Travel Time To Work: 21.7%
Average Persons Per Household: 2.34

Since my parents were divorced, a good part of my childhood was spent in Brooksville, where my Daddy and his family life. For fourteen years I spent every other weekend, every other major holiday, and one week every summer here. My memories of this area are of running around barefoot on my family’s farm. I know there is a rather large town area in Brooksville, but my memories like to primarily recall the outskirts and backwoods where I spent most of my time. I’d say my memories mostly include lots of farms, patches of dense woods, dirt roads, and the interesting fact that every home seemed to have a large yard or a lot of acreage attached.

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#5 – Ocala, Florida (Marion County)
Total Population: 57,586
Ethnicity Breakdown: 70.7% White, 20.9% Black, 11.7% Hispanic, 2.6% Asian, 2.4% Mixed
Persons Living Below Poverty Level: 23.1%
Median Income: 36,739
Mean Travel Time To Work: 19.5 minutes
Average Persons Per Household: 2.41

I lived in Ocala the shortest amount of time – perhaps two or three months. This was the place that really wrecked my previous ideas of what a city was. In my memories, Ocala is an enormous maze that really made my head spin. Spending the vast majority of my life in small towns, I guess this is a natural reaction. I was interested to find, however, that the outskirts of Ocala are made up of vast expanses of farm land. The interior of the city itself encompassed what seemed like millions of people, hundreds of stores, and billions of cars – there was always traffic. Always.

Conclusion

So, do I think that these places shaped the me I was or the me who I am today? Yes, I definitely do… for some of them, anyways. Dade City, my wonderful little hometown, gave me the soul of a small town southern girl. Zephyrhills gave me a different kind of street smarts, and I suppose what people might call a white-trash edge. Brooksville definitely gave me the knowledge and spirit of a country farm girl. I wouldn’t say Webster or Ocala either one contributed much to myself.

I suppose, without the other two parts of this social experiment, we could say places you spend a large block of time in are the ones who contribute to who you are. I said I felt Webster, where I spent one year in my very early childhood, and Ocala, where I spent two or three months during my teenage years, did not contribute anything… while Brooksville, where I spent extended portions of time for fourteen years, Dade City, where I spent my first 10+ years, and Zephyrhills, where I spent two periods of time accumulating to something around 4 or so years, did contribute. We’ll see if this continues to hold true through the rest of this experiment.

Come back tomorrow for part two, where we’ll take a look at the towns/cities I’ve lived in New Jersey to see what my personal opinion of them was, and whether I believe they shaped my life or personality in any major way. While you wait, check out another relevant post on growing up in different social situations, Surviving Extended Households.

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